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In this article we look at why good granola is the key to a great healthy acai bowl, but first we should probably clear up some of the semantics surrounding all things bowl and breakfast. And explain just where granola sits in the grand scheme of things.
Then we can talk about why it is really important to get the good stuff.
Let’s jump straight in…
What’s the difference between an acai bowl, a granola bowl, a bowl smoothie, and a breakfast bowl?
The difference between all these terms is really just semantics. The original acai bowl was made with acai and kickstarted the trend for healthy fruit based bowls at breakfast. Hugely similar to the bowl smoothie, the base contained acai puree blended into a semi-frozen almost gelato-textured thick smoothie. The top was dressed with insta-ready fruits, nuts and seeds. Strictly speaking the acai bowl should still be focused on acai, although now it can feature acai powder instead of puree. In reality though, the term acai bowl covers many bases.
The granola bowl is really more of a yoghurt/fruit combo, dressed in the same way as an acai bowl with plenty of fruit and, you guessed it, granola. The granola bowl is fairly interchangeable with the smoothie bowl, featuring a stiff smoothie base instead of yoghurt. The arrival of fruit powders has allowed this line to blur quite considerably as yoghurt mixes well with fruit and superfood powders.
A smoothie bowl is a thick smoothie, again with that semi-frozen gelato like texture, topped with an insta-ready array of fruit, nuts, seeds, and/or granola.
Breakfast bowl is a catch all term for the above and beyond. Often used to denote the fruit based bowls we have discussed above, but also anything that goes in a bowl served as breakfast. Anything from buddha bowls to a full on fry up. Granola optional.
Does an acai bowl always contain granola?
As we have seen, just as an acai bowl does not strictly require acai, it does not necessarily need granola. But granola is a great addition to these smoothie bowls, whatever name you call them by. Already chock full of nuts, grains and seeds, it is a handy shortcut to adding them all one-by-one. Not only that, granola has textures and tastes of all its own and is way more than the sum of its parts.
What goes into a good granola?
So here the crowd divides. A good granola is largely a matter of personal taste. Some like a lot of cereal. Some like a lot of sugar. Many prefer a soft chewy more-ish ness to a crisp crackling crunch. Others don’t like nuts. Others are allergic to nuts. Certain people choose not to eat grains with gluten. Some of them don’t eat grains at all. Really though, a good granola will be packed with a balance of high quality ingredients and will reach an acceptable level of nutrient density. Oats, butter, and sugar (and not in that order) may be delicious but they won’t be winning the superfood sweepstakes any time soon. On the other hand, a good proportion of nuts and seeds, fruit, and low sugar ingredients and flavours will get you plenty of nutritional bang for your buck.
Granola will generally contain, in varying amounts, the following ingredients…
Sometimes softly moreish, sometimes with more of a crunch, it is the grains in granola that give it texture and bulk. Although sometimes deemed gluten-free, as it is the processing of oats not the grain itself that can contain gluten, oats are often the main cereal in granola and are considered a gluten grain. Other cereals are present in granola and can add interest and texture, as well as nutrient diversity. True cereal grains such as rye, spelt, barley and rice all contain gluten. Pseudo grains such as buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa and millet tend not to contain gluten. On a Paleo diet, most grains are not allowed, although personal preference and nutritional tolerance is take into account.
Although many varieties of nuts appear in granola, you would usually only find one or two types at a time. Nuts can be fairly strongly flavoured and too many varieties at once will just confuse the palate. Some people prefer no nuts as they can have a heavy going kind of crunch. But if you do like nuts in your granola, then plenty of them is a good indicator of quality as they are an expensive ingredient. Almonds, pecans and hazelnuts are particularly popular.
Seeds are a particularly nutrient dense addition to any granola, and they add a particularly pleasing kind of crunch. Paleo granola will contain many seeds in place of cereal to make up bulk.
Another crowd divider. Although fruit can be nutrient dense, it also brings with it more sugar. There is also the question of texture – some people just don’t like the chewy bits. Raisins are the mainstay of basic granola, but look out for berries such as blueberries, cranberries or even raspberries. Apple is a nice addition to a granola, and of course there is the tropical trilogy of pineapple, mango and papaya. Apricots, dates and sour cherries have all been known to make an appearance.
Chocolate chips (or their superfood cousin cacao nibs) are another crowd divider. There are those who do and those who just don’t. Coconut flakes tend to be present in tropical type mixes but can also find their way into other types of granola too. If you like coconut then it can be a good way of adding sweetness.
Most granola will have some form of sweetness added to it, other than the natural sweetness of dried fruit. It is the toasting of ingredients and the addition of fat and sugar that makes granola granola and not muesli. Honey and maple syrup bring more depth of flavour. Alternatives may include agave or date syrup. A good quality granola will be sweetened with unrefined sugars such as honey or maple and keep these to a minimum.
So, although choice of granola for your healthy acai bowl is a personal thing, quality is important. Look for low sugar varieties made with plenty of good quality ingredients such as nuts, seeds, alternative grains and dried fruit.
Is it important that my granola is organic?
Organic, or at the very least minimum intervention, is important in terms of flavour, quality, and also for the environment. What this means is that although farmers may strive to follow organic farming methods, actual certification may be financially out of reach and take years to achieve. Modern intensive farming methods have been particularly over used in cereal cropping and that has led to a decline in biodiversity and natural habitat. Most farmers understand the importance of the slower more natural approach and by supporting the smaller farmers we are making a bid for better quality food.
What are the different types of granola?
There are many types of granola you could choose for your healthy acai bowl.
Classic granola (R.A. C. perfect for the acai bowl or smoothie bowl)
Then there is always porridge, muesli and bircher muesli for the days when you want a change. Breakfast will never be boring…
Get a wide range of the better quality healthy granola products online at operafoods.com.au